American Portrait 14
by Ken Harnisch
The woman gets in the car
At Six-three and Lexington
The doorman tipping his cap as he
Closes the door to the Town Car
Sparing me the trip out into the rain.
Thank you Walter, she says, in
This cool diffident voice
Full of money and practice
Yes, thank you Walter,
I mutter myself, not wanting to get
My suit any wetter than it is.
I have had this woman before.
She works on Broadway,
In the garment industry
And gets a car every morning.
Were going to go down Fifth Avenue, she says
And turn right on 41st Street.
I follow instructions; I am good at listening
And better at not saying anything more
By the by she says, You look familiar.
Have you driven me before?
And I say, yes miss. I picked you up on
The East Side, at the support group a month or so ago.
She smiles thin as water and says, Oh, was that you?
You had taken the other woman home, I say.
To Seventy First and third.
She tells me I have a good memory
And says it was an act of kindness, thats all
Things had gotten dicey at the meeting.
I had to get her out of there.
And then she adds,
You have no idea how bad it is
Being spouse to someone with Alzheimers
No I dont and never wishing to know
I remain respectfully silent, but I do say
And how are you holding up?
She seems to like this acknowledgment of her grief
And says, Its a trial, and I have my days.
Some good, some bad. Then smiling ruefully.
Some very bad, she says.
The cellphone jingles all too merrily
And I turn down the radio so she can speak
And while too many people foolishly think
All chauffeurs are some human version of Saran Wrap
Some of us cannot help but listen keenly to every spoken word.
I hear her arguing with someone I take to be her mother
She is glad to hear the chemo is going well and that
She will be out of the hospital soon
Then she says, if youre out I want to borrow
Rosa. I need five days away.
Can I just have that, mother?
No, he is not doing well
There are fewer good days, mother
He doesnt know me now
He doesnt remember anyone,
I only want five days
Is that too much to ask?
She clicks the cellphone shut and says,
Isnt it something, when you think
Its great news that your mother with cancer
Is getting out of the hospital soon
Just so you can get away
From your husband with Alzheimers
For just a little while.
And I say, I can understand that. You need a life too
And she says, A life. I used to have one of those.
I used to smile too.
And I say, I can see that.
I can sense you had a vivacious personality.
And as I scorn myself for my obsequious flattery
She says, ruefully, Yes, I used to have that.
I wonder if Ill ever be that way again.
We arrive at the Broadway address and she
Waits till I open the door
She says, Thank you for listening.
She says, It is good to see you again.
I say, I hope to see you again soon.
She smiles. It is like the sunlight tearing through the clouds
And I feel good for bringing it out in her
A feeling that lasts
As long as it takes to punch the mike
So I can get my next job.
Author's Note: a true story and the most autobiographical of this series
Posted on 08/15/2004
Copyright © 2023 Ken Harnisch
|Member Comments on this Poem|
|Posted by Melissa Arel on 08/15/04 at 10:19 PM|
Wow.. you made me see the whole story as if I was watching it on tv :) Excellent job, Ken.. and thanks for sharing it with us.
|Posted by Joan Serratelli on 03/18/09 at 02:09 PM|
I, too, could see the whole thing plsy out. Very good desciption of what was going on. Really good read and good job!